Labor treasury spokesman says bang for buck economics is needed

Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Labor has unveiled "bang for buck" spending will be front and centre of an alternative budget promise ahead of the election, with investment injections into TAFE and universities flagged as a priority.

In a speech delivered to the Economic Society of Australia on Wednesday night, Labor treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers claimed the middle class is being squeezed in poorer living standards and claiming the opposition's economic recovery would be underpinned by investment.

Dr Chalmers also hinted Labor's climate policy would be revealed by December and would underpin the economic plan to boost living standards and wages.

"What's missing is ambition, and a genuine plan for strong, broad, sustainable and inclusive economic growth," he said.

"The climate policy we release in the coming weeks will make practical changes that support new and existing industries, are good for the environment and reduce cost of living pressures."

The Queensland MP tipped to one day be Labor leader claimed he would take the "handbrake off investment" by supporting education and training, as part of government procurement projects.

Dr Chalmers' speech also touched on a slow down in quarterly economic compared to other OECD nations and similarly in unemployment levels which he claims ranked Australia 15th in the OECD.

"But the most striking fall is wages. Based on the OECD average annual wage data, Australia ranked 6th in the OECD between 2007 and 2013. The most recent data has us at 21st," he said.

The economic claims made by Labor's money man are in despite of Treasurer Josh Frydenberg during Question Time, reaffirming the Reserve Bank's assumption that unemployment in 2023 will be in the 4 per cent range.

Australia's unemployment currently sits at 5.2 per cent, while annual wages growth stands at 2.2 per cent.

Mr Frydenberg's regurgitation of economic figures showing the bounce back from the pandemic induced downturn was provoked by a question from Dr Chalmers, labelling him the worst treasurer in a century.

The treasurer then hit back claiming Dr Chalmers was the "architect" of Labor's high tax agenda.

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"Last year we were facing economic armageddon," Mr Frydenberg said. "There was some forecast unemployment could reach as high as 15 per cent, today unemployment is lower than when we came to government."

During his ESA speech held at the National Press Club in Canberra, Dr Chalmers noted insecure work is a cancer on underemployment and the stagnation of wages in Australia.

"We can't afford to be complacent again this time - it was complacency over vaccines and quarantine that cruelled the first recovery," he said.

"I will be asking our alternative budget to be judged not on whether it's a little bit bigger or a little bit smaller than our opponents."

Labor have also pledged co-investment in manufacturing through its National Reconstruction Fund.

Investment in early education and childcare in a bid to ease the cost of living for working families, is also part of Labor's election campaign.

On climate and energy, Dr Chalmers said a lack of action would hinder policy options into the future.

"As a global laggard on sensible climate and energy policy, we run the risk of trade and investment penalties from other countries," he said.

"We will provide energy policy certainty to drive investment in cleaner and cheaper energy, which would create more jobs and investment, especially in the regions."

This story Jim Chalmers hints at Labor election pledges first appeared on The Canberra Times.